DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL CENTRAL AMERICA

 
     
  Flora:- CARYOPHYLLALES AND KIN  

 

The Botanical Order Caryophyllales and the closely related Cornales here present representatives from eight different families.  None of these families are really tropical by nature, so the contribution of each is relatively small and in some cases involve species relegated to higher or drier environments within tropical mesoamerica.  The Cactus Family is also filed under Caryophyllales, but it has been given its own page.

Caryophyllaceae, which has given its name to its order, in usually called the Pink Family, although the term Carnation Family is also used.  For the most part, its 2200 species are herbs of temperate climates, and in the tropics will usually seek cool mountain elevations.  Several are garden favorites in Europe and North America.

 

Most flowers of the Pink Family are actually white, but here is a lovely exception.  Silene laciniata brightens hillsides from southern U.S. to southern Mexico, with at least three subspecies. Click to see big picture (526x480 pixels; 79 KB)
Silene laciniata deserves a second photo.  It goes by a number of popular names of which Clavel del Monte and Mexican Campion seem two of the better known. Click to see big picture (623x480 pixels; 137 KB)
Stellaria cuspidata is usually referred to as the Mexican Starwort, but it is found in uplands from the southern U.S. to Colombia, and then again in the southern Andes.  Click to see big picture (589x480 pixels; 62 KB)
Arenaria lanuginosa (var. lanuginosa) is a scrambling herb which is widespread in the western hemisphere, but in the tropics usually hangs out in the mountains.  Spreading Starwort (or Sandwort) by name. Click to see big picture (640x466 pixels; 78 KB)
From high on Volcan Baru, Panama, another starwort.  This may be just another variety of Arenaria lanuginosa, such as saxosa. Click to see big picture (312x480 pixels; 66 KB)


The Pokeweed Family, Phytolaccaceae, comprises roughly a hundred species, mainly in the Phytolacca genus, which has both tropical and temperate members.  Pokeweeds are most notable for their berries, which turn black on maturity and give alternate names such as Inkberry in English and Verla China in Latin America.   For most species these are poisonous to mammals, but enjoyed by birds.

 

 
The Tropical Pokeweed, Phytolacca icosandra, is wide ranging, from the southern US to Peru.  This shows its progressions from flowers to maturing fruit. Click to see big picture (640x470 pixels; 105 KB)
Not only does Phytolacca icosandra have a large range, it is also variable, and may be a species complex.  This example at the Botanical Gardens at University of Berkeley appears unconcerned. Click to see big picture (462x480 pixels; 143 KB)
Pokeweeds with long, thin floral stocks tend to be classed as Phytolacca rivinoides.   The species is found in both Central and South America, where it has inspired names such as Hierba de Culebra (snake herb). Click to see big picture (604x480 pixels; 108 KB)
This photo from Mexico appears to be of Phytolacca americana, the most common and widespread of the genus.  It shows the various stages in the development from flowers to ripe fruit. Click to see big picture (527x480 pixels; 107 KB)
Phytolacca bogotensis is found in the Andes of tropical South America.  Here it is to east of Quito in Ecuador, where it is kown as Atuk Sara.
There are several species of Phytolacca in the neotropics, and while the genus is easy to recognize, I will leave species identification for most of them to pokeberry enthusiasts. Click to see big picture (640x441 pixels; 97 KB)
Petiveria alliacea is known as Garlic Weed and has the smell to match.  It is native to the Caribbean and much of the neotropics, where it finds several uses in folk medicine, even as a bat repellent.  This is from Nicaragua, where the local name is Guine. Click to see big picture (640x446 pixels; 117 KB)
Despite appearances, Ledenbergia seguierioides is of the pokeberry family.  It seems confined to Colombia, and is here showing off its long tresses at the botanical gardens in Bogota. This seems to have back to the Caryophyllaceae family. Click to see big picture (549x480 pixels; 147 KB)
The Stegnosperma genus has now been split out of the pokeberry family and given a shaky, three-species family of its own.  This appears to be  S. halimifolium, native to Mexico and Guatemala.  It has an interesting local name- Ojos de Zanate (grackle eyes). Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 101 KB)
Stegnosperma cubense may be found in the Caribbean, and from Mexico to Costa Rica.  It is known as the Cuban Tangle, and here on a beach in southwestern Nicaragua it presents its leaves and unopened seed pods. Click to see big picture (629x480 pixels; 121 KB)
Further views of Stegnosperma cubense, showing flowers, and the interesting way in which the seed pods open. Click to see big picture (601x480 pixels; 88 KB)


Polygonaceae is a family encompassing about 1200 species in 50 genera.  Most are miserable weeds of temperate climates.  The term Knotweed Family comes from this aspect of the group, while those with a more favorable view would call it the Buckwheat Family.

 
Antigonon leptopus is a fast-growing and colorful vine, a neotropical native which has now been planted around the world.  Coral Vine is the usual name, but it has inspired many others, including Mexican Creeper.  Alas, it can also be an aggressive weed from an almost indestructible tuber. Click to see big picture (640x467 pixels; 101 KB)
There is an especially attractive form of Coral Vine in Baja Mexico.  This photo is from that area, but under the name of 'Baja Red', it has been widely planted in tropical gardens. Click to see big picture (640x465 pixels; 97 KB)
Coccoloba uvifera may be found on beaches of the neotropics, especially the Caribbean.  Male and Female plants are separate.  Click to see big picture (640x439 pixels; 103 KB)
The fruit of Coccoloba uvifera give it the common names of Seagrape and Beach Grape.  When ripe and reddish, they are edible, although mainly comprised of a large, hard seed.  A sort of wine can also be devised. Click to see big picture (491x480 pixels; 86 KB)
The leaves of Coccoloba uvifera are large and at times decorative.  In some areas, this species is planted on beach edges to stabilize sand. Click to see big picture (640x479 pixels; 105 KB)

The Amaranth Family, Amaranthaceae, is the largest in the Caryophyllales Order.  It has given us such edibles as spinach, beets, sugar beets and quinoa, but the great majority of species are noxious weeds, mainly from temperate climates.  Several are collectively dismissed as Pigweeds.

 
One of the more colorful species is Celosia argentea, which is not just used to brighten tropical gardens, but is eaten in Africa, Asia and parts of Latin America.  Silver Cockscomb in English, Cresta de Gallo in Spanish. Click to see big picture (640x462 pixels; 133 KB)
A more natural example of Cresta de Gallo as a ditch weed in the Darien of Panama.  Here it is also called Abanico.
Amaranthus hybridus originated in Eurasia, but has been imported for both food and medicine and is now widespread.  Rough Pigweed and Slim Amaranth are two of its names. Click to see big picture (241x480 pixels; 69 KB)
Gomphrena globosa is native to the neotropics, but is now pantropical and appreciated as a folk medicine for stomach problems.  In English, Globe Amaranth is common, but elsewhere the odd name of Amor Seco is used. Click to see big picture (490x480 pixels; 115 KB)
You have your choice of Gomphrena or Alternanthera for the genus, but the species is Brasiliana.  Under names such as Brazilian Joyweed, however, it is now pantropical, for the promise of color in gardens and a wide range of medicinal claims. joyweed
Alternanthera pubiflora ranges through the Andes of the western neotropics. Here it is in central Nicaragua. Click to see big picture (590x480 pixels; 86 KB)
An African in the cloud forests of Costa Rica.  This appears to be Cyathula achyranthoides, a transplant which has done well and is now scattered throughout the neotropics. Click to see big picture (520x480 pixels; 93 KB)
Iresine diffusa is a very successful weed in the western tropics.  Known as Juba's Bush and other names, it is here over running an abandoned coffee plantation in Nicaragua. Click to see big picture (410x480 pixels; 99 KB)
Iresine herbstii gets its ticket to travel in garden circles as a result of its striking foliage.  Names such a Bloodleaf and Beefsteak Plant have been inspired.  Van Dusen Gardens. Click to see big picture (517x480 pixels; 125 KB)
Another African on the loose.  Cape Leadwort, refers to the South African Cape, but it is used as a houseplant and has adapted well to the western hemisphere, here in Mexico.  It is all I have to show of the Plumbago Family. Click to see big picture (493x480 pixels; 84 KB)
The very popular Mirabilis jalapa, named for a Mexican town, but very widespread with edible leaves.  It is also rather variable in flower color, and in general is more likely to be met in gardens than in the wild. Click to see big picture (608x480 pixels; 76 KB)
Another view of dew-jeweled Mirabilis jalapa.  In Mexico it is known as the Flor de Campo Santo.   It is of the Nyctaginaceae Family, as is another tropical garden favorite, the Bougainvilleas.  Click to see big picture (399x480 pixels; 64 KB)
This appears to be Mirabilis viscosa, native in Mexico and in northern South America. Click to see big picture (489x480 pixels; 70 KB)
Abronia maritima adorns Pacific beaches from southern California to central Mexico.  It is known as the Red Sand Verbena, although not really a verbena.  It is considered rare and endangered. Abronia maritima
Salpianthus arenarius may not be much to look like, but it is an important medinial shrub in western Mexico, used against diabetes mainly, but also for nerves, scorpion bites etc.  Here in Oaxaca Province it is known as Hoja de Largato (Lizard Leaf) for some reason.

Sometimes known as the Eveningstar Family, Loasaceae has somewhere between 200 and 260 members, depending on which genera you count as in.  They are noted for both complex flowers and as potent nettles.  It is part of the Cornales Order, closely related to the Caryophyllales at the genetic level.

 
This appears to be Loasa rudis, a powerful nettle, here lurking in the the Bajo Mono area of western Panama.  Nasa triphylla is another name, preferred by some. Click to see big picture (561x480 pixels; 126 KB)
Mentzelia hispida (or incisa) is a weedy vine found in southern Mexico and Guatemala, in this case in Oaxaca area.  The flowers are attractive, but it gets its local names such as Pegajosa Dorado and Pega Ropa, from its seeds, which are clinging burrs. Click to see big picture (560x480 pixels; 84 KB)
Another nettle, this one known as OrtiguillaGronovia scandens is a climbing herb of open spaces, and has become a major farmland weed in some areas.  It may zap the unwary traveler from Mexico to Peru. Click to see big picture (594x480 pixels; 99 KB)